Panda-monium

Trip Start Nov 05, 2008
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25
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Trip End Jun 23, 2009


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Where I stayed

Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here we go again...another Hostel led tour. As reluctant as I was for 7 months to go on tours, the few that I went on were well worth it. Ha Long Bay, the Mekong Delta, and now the Panda Breeding and Research Center in Chengdu, Sichuan. Many tourists come to Sichuan just to see this Chinese national treasure only found here and in Shaanxi and Gansu Provinces. There are less than 1000 pandas in total and most of them are found in Sichuan Province. I was surprised and impressed by the 92 acre Center that has imitated the pandas' natural habitat to make it the most desirable environment for breeding and living.

The hostel guides made sure we made it by 9:00 sharp to see the feeding time. Trying to ignore the clicking cameras and chattering tourists, I enjoyed observing the slow-moving, hungry creatures roll around with and devour bamboo shoots, while videotaping the whole scene. There were about 40 or so pandas, including Giant Pandas, Lesser Pandas, and Red Pandas. Some expensive things are worth spending money on, but holding a baby panda for $100?!! I wasn't upset that I decided to pass...

The less-traveled route into Sichuan Province on the way to Chengdu was probably more interesting than retracing my steps to Kunming and taking 2 overnight trains. Instead, I took a bus along with 2 Torontonians to a small, industrial city called Panzihua and then took an overnight train to Chengdu. I made some more Chinese friends, this time a bunch of students who spoke English very well, with the exception of one shy girl who I kept asking questions, forgetting she couldn't understand one word I said. I love the English names the Chinese students give to themselves; Here are some examples: Knight, Sunny, Daisy, Missy, and Boston(?).

The Torontonians and I arrived in Chengdu at 6am and were swarmed by cab drivers. We knew we were not close to the hostel area, but did know that we could take a bus somewhere close. It took about 30 minutes just to figure out which direction the bus went, another 30 minutes on the bus, and asked 5 people who gave us contradicting directions. This was fitting for asking directions from locals in China because they have to tell you something, whether it is the right answer or not. The Canadians ended taking a cab to the hostel and 5 minutes later, I arrived on foot just in time for the Panda tour.

My short visit to Sichuan province also included a brief visit with an American couchsurfer who was working for the Sichuan Earthquake Relief organization. We shared similar travel stories and he gave me plenty of advice for my upcoming trip to Malaysia. His assistant happened to be interested in Geography programs in the US, so I was more than happy to give my two cents on the matter.

My longest train ride ever, 38 hours, was not as bad as I thought it would be. Don't worry, I didn't take the hard seat for this journey. I decided to skip Beijing, Xian, and other parts of China I would have to save for another trip and headed back to Jinhua for another two weeks...

Next Stop: Back to Jinhua
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